There’s nothing quite like the ending of a Rocky film. Say what you will about the rest of the story, but those final moments of each movie always give me goosebumps, even tears at times. The ending of Rocky Balboa, aka Rocky VI, is no different. Probably the most beautiful of any in the series.
Each movie in the series deals with a different aspect of life–hard work, fame, death, retribution, fatherhood. Rocky Balboa deals with age. Not just age, but how you deal with age. And not letting age define you.
This newest installment follows Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) after his wife has passed away. His son, Robert (Milo Ventimiglia), now an adult, deals with the shadow his father is always casting over him. Robert has a corporate job and friends, but can’t help but feel like everything he has is because of who his dad is.
The first 15 minutes are spent relishing in the rest of the series, as it’s been over 15 years since the last film. It’s self-indulgent, full of flash backs, but it’s over quickly.
The rest of the story focuses on Rocky, now in his early 60s, wanting to get back in the ring. He wants to keep it low-profile, but reigning heavyweight champion, Mason Dixon (Antonio Tarver), challenges Rocky to a big budget HBO duel.
It’s fun seeing Rocky in a modern era. He’s still that salt-of-the-earth kind of guy, but now dealing with modern people with modern sensibilities.
Rocky Balboa still has the slightly disjointed feel that has plagued the whole franchise, however this one is more contemporary, so by the second act everything is running smoothly. Stallone slides back into the role so easily, and he’s as lovable as ever.
What Rocky has always done well is building up the depth of its opponent. Unfortunately, this also assists us in telegraphing the end result of the movies, but anything can happen, I suppose.
The themes explored are better off conveyed through the movie, so I won’t say much on that. But the struggle that Rocky deals with throughout the story is palpable, reminding us of our own evanescence. As Stallone faces the one opponent that will never lose–time–the look in his eyes makes you believe that perhaps he knows the feeling all too well. But he also knows that getting old is a gift, too. As not everyone gets the chance to see their own old age. And even those who do are not always lucky enough to be able to leave what they love on their own terms.
Rocky VI is a great movie and a perfect bookend for Rocky’s career.